Opinion by Chris Baynes
CEO, DCM Group
Two weeks before the Budget is announced, the outspoken COTA Australia CEO is demanding the Government make aged care funding an urgent national priority – before the Royal Commission delivers its Final Report in February 2021.
With a 30-year track record of working with Government for older Australians, he is regarded as having the best voice with Government, as well as the best understanding of what Government realistically can and can’t deliver.
So, his candid on-air conversation on Sydney talkback radio 2GB last Friday was illuminating at this point in time.
We thought it worthy of a major transcript.
The Government will have a very big aged care bill
“The bill has been building up and building up…”
“It is very clear the Commonwealth Government is going to have a very big bill out of this Royal Commission, and it’s about time.”
“What I have been saying to the Royal Commission and to Government is talk about all those schemes and levies (as much as) you like; what we know is that in the next four years, what the Government calls its budget forward estimates period, the Government itself is going to have to cough up quite a lot of money.”
Government needs to cough up $6B now
“We need (is) at least a couple of billion a year to get the home care package waiting time down to a month, not 18 months. We need about $3 billion that we know from the Aged Care Workforce Inquiry where we reported a couple of years ago that we need about $3 billion a year for workforce”.
“The Royal Commission has said it has quite a few other things on top of that.”
“It’s going to have to cough that money up because we are not going to get (it) from elsewhere but thankfully we are at a time where Government does it out of debt financing; it’s not going to cost very much money to borrow the money.”
“Clearly if its $20 billion now, we need another 6 (billion) before you start thinking about additional things that the Royal Commission comes up with, so that’s a lot of money in one lump and it’s not, you know, in our normal federal Budget process, the expenditure review process says to Cabinet and the relevant minister, if you want to spend this go away and find some savings. Well you know Greg Hunt and Richard Colbeck are not going to find $6 billion in the Health Budget which is under enormous pressure.”
It is time to put money on the table
“This money is going to have to come from outside the Health Budget; it’s going to have to be out of the rest of the revenue of Government and it is a matter of priority.”
“As you have just said in these crisis times, Government has been prepared to put many tens and hundreds of billions on the table. The Royal Commission has said aged care is in a crisis. I think we have every right to expect that the Government will put billions on the table and some of that might need to be shared with the users of the system in a more equitable way, but it is time we gave aged the priority that I think most people think it should have.”
LASA has been demanding $3 billion since November last year. Can Ian succeed in aged care receiving the priority it deserves, being $6 billion a year – indexed – plus the extra recommendations of the Royal Commission?
Don’t we all have our own responsibility?
One would hope yes. But surely the aged care recipient who has paid their own accommodation and care needs all their life should also be contributing at a far higher level for their last few years of their lives, and also be prepared to pay for the optimum quality of care. Or is it fair to cast this extra debt burden on younger taxpayers?
Questions that should also be on that table and be answered with some urgency.